“Companies are increasingly tuning in to the importance of understanding their customers in order to make their marketing more effective,” writes Ian Barker (@), “and big data has a key role to play in providing them with the information to do so.” Reporters at eMarketer agree that “marketers continue to increase focus — and dollars — on personalization”; but, they also note, “Recent research suggests they’re still stuck on the basics.” They explain:
“In an April 2015 study by Researchscape for Evergage, 49% of marketers worldwide expected to increase their spending on personalization this year, vs. just 8% who intended to decrease budgets. However, based on a June 2015 study by VB Insight, marketers rely on beginner metrics when it comes to such efforts. When asked about the types of personal/identity-related data used for personalization purposes, marketers were most likely to cite the basics, such as email address (57%), name (45%), location (41%) and demographics (40%). More advanced figures, such as location-related data (18%), lifestyle details (15%) and psychographics (8%), were far less common.”
All of this suggests that marketers understand personalization is important, but they have yet to figure out which types of data are likely to provide them with the best return on their investment. It has been reported that ad spending for mobile devices will surpass ad spending for television this year. True or not, the trend is clearly heading in that direction. Mobile devices provide the perfect platform for targeted marketing and the sooner that manufacturers and retailers master the art of the sale on those devices the better off they will be. Personalization (i.e., identity-driven marketing) has the potential to increase sales and provide consumers with a better shopping experience; but, only if the right data is available and analyzed for pertinent insights. Melinda Emerson (@) asks, “Are you wasting your marketing efforts by barking up the wrong tree?” If you aren’t using the best data to understand your most important customers, Emerson could well have added, “That dog won’t hunt.” She continues:
“If you don’t know who your ideal customer is and where he [or she] spends time online, your marketing is likely scattershot — sent in all the wrong directions. On the other hand, assessing where your customer is receptive to your messaging can help you instantly get better results.”
Leah Klingbeil (@), a marketing specialist at LoginRadius, agrees with Emerson. “The current state of how we market to our customers stands in creating a more localized and personalized customer experience,” she writes. “It’s the driving force in how businesses acquire and retain their customers.” Klingbeil defines identity-driven marketing as the use of “customer identity data to guide each marketing campaign, customer program, client interaction, and user experience.” She adds, “Once the customer identity (also known as customer persona) is identified, identity-driven marketing helps you deliver consistent, targeted, and personalized messages and offers to your customers. … The more you cater your marketing efforts to your customers, the better your customers’ experience is when they engage with your business, and the higher the likelihood they will become a customer and stay a customer.” In his article, Barker included the following infographic (produced by big data analytics platform Datameer) that looks at how companies are using big data to build their brands and boost revenue.
The figures that caught my attention in that infographic were those related to the credit card company that, using targeted ads, was able to increase its conversion rate by 24% and decrease it digital ad spending by $3.5 million. Those results should impress any business leader. Both Emerson and Klingbeil suggest that the first thing you need to do to get those kinds of results is understand your customer better. Klingbeil writes:
“Every form of marketing messaging should always be crafted and designed with a specific target audience in mind. When you create customer identities, you’re able to segment your customers into groups that put together like-minded people who demonstrate having similar behaviors, interests, and characteristics. Your objectives will lead the way you create these segments, which will always change over time because your customers’ behaviors evolve as you collect more data points. When using customer identity data to create segments be sure to expand beyond demographic information, by also including psychographic characteristics. Understanding your customers’ beliefs, values, and attitude will be a greater value to you when trying to predict how your customers will respond and how loyal they will be to your brand.”
Emerson adds, “One of the most important keys to finding customers is identifying the unique traits, characteristics, and preferences of your key target audience. It is incredibly difficult to find your customer online without this information. If you have not yet developed a detailed profile of your target customer, do it as soon as possible.” Admittedly, developing a consumer persona is not as easy as they make it sound. It requires gathering and analyzing the right data using the right techniques. Fortunately, cognitive computing technologies are being developed, like the Enterra Enterprise Cognitive System™ (ECS), that can Sense, Think, Act, and Learn®. Cognitive computing systems can analyze many more variables than past systems and can find relationships that may not have been obvious using traditional methods. Because cognitive computing systems employ natural language processing, working with them is also much easier. This is important because gathering, integrating, and analyzing data remains a significant challenge for marketers. The eMarketer article elaborates:
“VB Insight found that marketers struggled with data collection: 80% worldwide said they didn’t understand their customers beyond basic data such as demographics and purchase history. And unifying the data they did have was even harder, as 96% said it was challenging to build a comprehensive single view of a customer — a major problem when one considers that more than six in 10 marketers worldwide surveyed in March 2015 by Signal said they couldn’t personalize customer experiences the way they wanted to due to fragmented data/profiles.”
Although targeted marketing is most often associated with retailers, Anders Ekman (@), President of DataMentors, reports, “Manufacturers are learning from retailers in this regard. Rather than using traditional incentives and mass messaging to push products, they are learning to focus on customers’ needs by understanding who the customer is, what different customers buy, how they buy and what influences their purchases. With more sources of customer information and new technologies to evaluate data, manufacturers are using data management and marketing analytics to overcome some longtime challenges and reach some important goals.” Emerson concludes, “Knowing where your customers are online is half the battle. The other half requires you to deliver exactly what they want. The more in line you are with your customers’ thinking, the easier it will be to sell to them.”
 Ian Barker, “Using the power of big data to understand customers,” Betanews, 26 February 2015.
 “Marketers Stuck on Basic Data for Personalization,” eMarketer, 23 July 2015.
 Melinda Emerson, “Knowing Where Your Customers Are = Smarter Targeted Marketing,” Huffington Post The Blog, 5 August 2015.
 Leah Klingbeil, “Identity Driven Marketing: 5 Things You Need to Know,” Business 2 Community (B2C), 7 August 2015.
 Anders Ekman, “Understand Your Best Customers To Find New Revenue Opportunities,” Manufacturing Business Technology, 12 August 2014.